Senate Council announced partnerships to improve application process

Members of the Faculty Senate met in Posvar Hall on Wednesday. Katie Krater | Staff Photographer

Pitt’s Senate Council announced two partnerships Wednesday night that its administrative members say will make it easier for high school students from any socio-economic background to apply to the University.

Pitt will enter into partnerships next fall with the Coalition for Access and Affordability and — a website that allows high school students to track their achievements and apply these to micro scholarships.

According to Marc Harding, chief enrollment officer for Pitt, the Coalition organizes information students might need when applying — including sample essay prompts, financial support and admission statistics — on one online platform.

Pitt is one of 50 member institutions of the Coalition for Access and Affordability, which is based on the idea that if all the information is in the same place it will encourage high school students to seriously think about applying to college, said Harding.

“Coalition makes it less overwhelming for kids to start looking at colleges,” Harding said.

Before the Coalition, similar tools for easily accessible application information were generally only available through a dedicated counselor, someone many students do not have access to because of poor funding at schools or overwhelmed counselors, said Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor Patricia Beeson. The partnerships will help close the gap between schools with poorer funding and those with better funding.

Pitt is also intiating a partnership with to increase accessibility and foster diversity at the University.

High school students can earn up to a $7,000 scholarship credit for Pitt through using to track their efforts. Each university can set the amount of money students are able to earn through the program. The program also allows universities to customize what classes or accomplishmnets merit scholarship credit.

“If a student passes calculus or maybe three years of lab science or becomes Eagle Scouts [sic], they can collect rewards for that,” Harding said.

This ensures that any student who takes part in this scholarship possesses qualifications that Pitt values, Harding said.

“If you want to move the needle in terms of providing access you need to start early,” Harding said. “Both and the Coalition are promoting early intervention.”

Senate President Frank Wilson said these initiatives are part of Pitt’s Year of Diversity and Inclusion. With minorities and poorer students shouldering more debt, both and the Coaltion aim to increase accesibility to Pitt for any future student who wants to apply, encouraging ongoing diversity.

“This is a particular moment where the opportunities are available to us to take advantage of,” Wilson said. “These discussions can help move us forward as a University.”

The Senate Council also announced that the formation of the School of Computing Informatics is in its final stages. Beeson, at the Senate Council meeting Wednesday, announced her plans to present the final proposal for the additional school to the Board of Trustees next week.

The discussion to create the new school started last year after Beeson brought faculty members of the Information Sciences and Computer Science together to discuss how integrated both fields have become.

“Today, it’s hard to sort out what’s a computing problem and what’s a data problem,” Beeson said. “Computing and information is present in every field.”

If a student is studying economics, for example, they will need to study and incorporate statistics at some point, Beeson said. This drove the University to reevaluate how they can better support the integration of those fields.

The proposal has gone through several committees within the University, such as the Provost’s Advisory Committee on Undergraduate Programs and the Senate Planning and Budgeting Committee. The main question throughout these sessions has been asking whether the University benefits from bringing the two fields together.

Ultimately the committees decided that, based on results from other schools including the University of Michigan and Indiana University, reorganizing the departments does have the potential to grow the University.

“We need more of a center of gravity in this area,” Beeson said. “What we have been doing is too diffuse.”

When the new undergraduate school, the School of Computing Informatics, opens in fall 2017, it will combine the 32 SIS faculty with the 18 CS faculty and distribute the 50-person staff in three new departments –– computer science, informatics and network systems and information culture and data stewardship.

Over the summer, Pitt started the search for a dean for the new school, but has not finalized any candidates yet.

Beeson said she’s expecting the Board of Trustees to approve the proposal.  

“I’m very excited here about the possibilities of new academic programs, new research initiatives,” Beeson said. “This new school is really going to help us move forward as an institution.”

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